Whitby In Spring Time.

I discovered a fantastic old northeast term the other day in a book I’m currently reading called Landmarks written by Robert Macfarlane, and that is “Lambin’ Storm” the name given to the gales which batter our coastline in Mid March, and not to be proven wrong that’s just what mother nature gave Helen and me on our visit to Whitby the other week. A blustery cold north easterly wind had whipped the high spring tides into a furious white foam and waves rolled in and crashed against the stone walls of the harbour. Now some people may think we were mad to venture to the seaside in such conditions, but for me I don’t think you could ask for a better day to walk along the pier as the sea crashes against it while the wind pulls at your hair and your clothes, plus it makes sneaking into a cosy pub afterwards even more rewarding.

Whitby Pier Lith

Lambin’ Storm, Whitby. Carl Zeiss Super Ikonta 6×9.

The day out also gave me chance to put a film through a vintage Carl Zeiss Super Ikonta folding camera which because of  some corrosion on the film gate and a little fungus in the lens had been put to one side. A little bit of black model paint sorted out the rust problem but all I could do for the lens was give it a good polish. Thankfully the fungus seems only to be in the front element and I couldn’t see any evidence that effecting the quality of the lens.

Whitby Pots

Pots, Whitby Harbour. Carl Zeiss Super Ikonta 6×9.

For these photographs I wanted to do something different. I’ve been saving some of my favourite black and white paper, Forte Museum Weight, which was made by a once great Hungarian photographic company called Forte, sadly they closed down a few years ago so the paper is no longer in production, so these last few boxes are probably the last I’ll ever have. One of the great attributes of this paper is it’s perfect for developing with Lith which are specialist developers used in a highly diluted solution and create a warm grainy print with a unique tonal range. The paper is usually over-exposed by 2 or 3 stops, then when the required density of image is achieved it is ‘snatched’ from the developer and placed into a stop bath. Lith printing can produce a very wide range of different colour and tone effects, and the contrast can be adjusted by varying the exposure time and development time. The image colour varies a great deal from warm – brown, olive, yellow, pink through to ivory, giving each print it’s individuality. The Lith developer I used for these photographs was Fotospeed LD20 which is  readily available and easy to use, but there are a number of others on the market. I really like this method and definitely feel it captured the atmosphere of the gritty, windswept day we spent in beautiful, unique Whitby.

 

 

 

The Great Look Out!

This is a bit of a late post. It was at the end of Febuary and I was back in Swaledale with my friend Gareth and my dad for another walk, this time to the summit of the mighty Great Shunner Fell! Not only was it my first proper fell walk of the year it was also my first attempt to climb this impressive mountain, which dominates the heads of Swaledale and Wensleydale and at 716 meters above sea level and just so happens to be the third biggest fell in the Yorkshire Dales.

It was a bright sharp day when we set off from the small village of Thwaite which nestles in a fold of hills near the head of the dale. We followed the path of the Pennine Way up the long slopping ridge along the edge of Stock Dale towards Shunner Fell Rake. As we slowly climbed up the slope stopping here and there to take pictures the more the summit loomed above us. Beneath its domed top, snow cornices still clung to the ridges and gullies on the fell sides.

The higher we ascended up the fell’s broad shoulder towards Shunner Fell Rake the more this mountain started to live up to the name it was given by the Norse settlers who came to this part of the world in the 10th century “Sjon’s lookout hill” from the Old Norse, Sjon + haugr meaning hill. All round us the views started to open up. To the north Teesdale and Mickle Fell could be seen with Stainmore and the A66 lying in between, to the south the high tops of Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough. We stopped for a quick break beside the large cairn which marked the beginning of the steep rake to the summit.

Shunner Rake Cairn

The cairn is a fantastic example of the wall builders art and must have stood over 6ft tall, it had slump to one side slightly giving it the impression of stoop old man. We had a quick cuppa as we soaked in the wild grandeur of the landscape that was stretching out before us before continuing on our journey along the rake which is an old Cumbrian term for a steep path or track up a hill. The closer we got to our goal we were treated with more glorious panoramas and mountain vistas, now Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang could be seen and behind them the Howgill Fells could just be made out.

Shunner Fell pool

At the top we found a very comfortable shelter cairn so we hunkered down for a while out of the cold wind, mixed with occasional snow flurry, soaking up the atmosphere of the summit before starting our long descent down to the Buttertubs Pass and then back to Thwaite. This was by no means an easy route as it meant crossing the enticingly named Grainy Gill Moss and Grimy Gutter Hags. When people started to name these places they didn’t just pick names on a whim they were often descriptive and created to form a kind of oral map of the landscape so “Grain or Grainy” means a meeting of gills or sikes and “Moss” is the old term for a marsh or peat bog with that in mind we where pretty thankful the ground (if you could call it that) was still part frozen as I have no doubt that we would have been up to our ears in peat if we tried it on a wet summers day!!

I took a few more pictures before we dropped down onto the road that would lead us back to the car just as more dark clouds swept across the fell.

Clouds Over Shunner

Once we dropped down to the massive limestone sink holes of Buttertubs the rest of the walk was on tarmac which always makes the journey a bit longer than it should, even more so this time because I knew I had a 6 hour shift behind the bar at work to look forward to. So sadly this time we didn’t have the pleasure of celebrating what was a fantastic day out in the hills, we will just have to save it for later!!

 

Cheers

Graham

 

Finding the Snow..

I often get asked by people if I carry a camera with me where ever I go. Sadly the truth is sometimes I do, but not often enough!! On numerous occasions over the years I have been in some stunning places only to have forgotten a camera.  One of the reasons why I don’t always carry one is probably because when I do I drive everyone around me nuts, and to be honest I can understand why. For me to really get the best out of a location I really like to take my time, and what seems like a brief period to me, in reality to everyone else in my family it seems like hours!! But to be honest that is just excuse to make up for my usual lack of organisation, quite often I just forget. But for once last Saturday before we left for a family day out I had the for thought to bring a camera. In fact  it was a lovely vintage 6×9 Ensign 820 folder which I had just recently serviced. A drive up into the dales could be a perfect chance to put a film through!

When Helen, Alice and I set off  that morning the light was stunning, and as we drove over the tops along the old Roman road to Stanhope in Weardale the views were incredible, and as we looked over to west, snow could be seen clinging to the tops of Mickle and Cross Fell. After a bit of lunch in cafe at the Durham Dales Centre and good look round the craft shops we head up the dale towards St John’s Chapel. From there we headed over Chapel Fell back over Langdon Beck and Teesdale to find the snow, and find it we did! The views over the high fells where superb and the whole of upper Teesdale was filled with clear spring sunshine,  it was then I realised that I had left my lightmetre!! So I think I will give myself 4 out 5 for organisation on that one.

 

Harthope Head

Snow Quarry, Hartshope Head, Ensign 820, Hp5+, Foma Chamois Paper.

Cheers

Graham

A Camera Reborn….well almost

Well in my last post I said I was getting ready for a trip to Ilkley Moor, but it turned out I had once again lost complete track of time and I was a week a head of myself! So with a free day to play with I decided to nip up to the dales and test out a new camera.

A few months ago Richard a good friend of mine, asked me if I wanted to borrow a vintage folding camera which could take 6x11cm negatives.  It turned out to be  a lovely old 1930’s Voigtlander Inos II but the only problem was it was designed to take 116 film which is no longer made. Luckily though Richard has converted a number of similar cameras to take 120 film and assured me it was a pretty straight forward bit of DIY.  So with lots of helpful advice from Rich and a bit of internet research here’s what I did…

Camera Mod 020

My first problem was figuring out the best way to adapt the camera so it would take the smaller 120 film which is used in all modern medium format cameras and is readily available. The easiest way is to make some inserts which fill in the gaps between the camera sprockets and the spool of film so it’s held in place inside the camera. This is great because it means you don’t have to permenantly alter the camera.

2 spools

Inside the camera on one side there are two spring loaded pins which hold the role of unexposed film, on the other side there is a pin on the bottom and spade ended sprocket on the top, this is meant to fit into a slot in the end of the  film spool so you can advance film after every exposure. As you can see the width of the original 116 film spool (the bottom one) is not that much wider than the new 120, so I didn’t have much room to work with. After a little look online I found the easiest method is to take some plastic rawl plugs, cut them to size and push them into the ends of the spool.

Inserts1

This worked great but to make inserts for the wind on sprockets was a little more tricky. I tried a few different ways but none of them really seemed to work for me, so in the end I just did the same thing with the rawl plugs but this time I cut a slot in the rawl plug for the spade ended sprocket to fit into.

Inserts2

 

I then taped some thin strips of black card along the top and bottom of the film gate (the opening inside the camera where the film is exposed) to hold the narrower 120 film in place and stop it from curling up while I’m trying to take a picture.

film mask

 

Once that was done I found an old film I could use as a test role, a couple of runs through and everything seemed to be working ok. This camera like most folding cameras doesn’t have a film counter, instead you look through a small red glass inspection window in the back of the camera to read  the frame numbers which are printed onto the backing paper. But since I was now using a different film the numbers printed on the back of the film no longer matched the camera so the test role helped me get a rough idea how much film to wind on for each frame.  All I needed to do now was to put a new role of film through it, take some pictures and see what turned out!!

The weather was pretty decent  and I had a couple of ideas for some locations in Teesdale were I could try out the camera.

Camera test

Everything seemed to be working fine but when I got home and processed the film I found things hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped.

 

 

Beach Trees

 

 

First I got a lot of fog. I checked the camera bellows with a torch (something I really should’ve done before hand) and I found a number of small holes where the material had frayed at the edge, that was a bit of a disappointment, but I didn’t think that was the only cause of the light leak. Being made over 80 years ago the film this camera was designed to take was much slower than the film we use today, it was also quite often Orthochromatic and not red light sensitive. The pictures I took in the woods out of direct sunlight had a lot less fog and the results were pretty good so I think the red film window on the back of the camera may have been allowing too much light in for the faster modern film. The only other little issue was that one side of the neg was uneven, but I have no idea why, it may be something to do with the film lifting at one side. Having said all that the negatives are still almost 6x10cm!!

tractor tyre

Well back to the drawing board! I did a bit of repair work to the bellows and double checked with the torch to make sure I’d sealed the holes, I then simply covered over the film window with some electrical tape. While I was tinkering I had a second look at the inserts for the film advancing spool and decided to make something a bit more substantial.

Film spool mod1

 

I took a couple of spare spools and cut the ends off and sanded them down to the correct size so that when I super glued them to either end of another spool the final width would be exactly the same as the original 116 one. You can also see in this picture my failed attempt to narrow the original 116 film spool using foam so it would take 120, but I was much happier with my final attempt and fingers crossed it should be a lot more stable.

Film spool mod2

 

 

So all there’s left to do now is give it another go!!

Cheers

Graham

 

 

 

 

Autumn has arrived……

View Rigg

Yad Moss to Cow Green, 6X9 Schnieder Rolflex with HP5+ in Caffenol CL 

Well autumn has finally arrived and the moorlands of the North Pennines are calling me. With an exciting new commission which has recently come in from Gallerina  and some amazing new places to explore over the coming month I can’t wait to lose myself in the bleak fells of the Durham Moors!!

Graham

Fifty Nine Degrees North!

Sorry for the lack of recent activity on my blog. I’m pleased to say I haven’t just been setting here idly waiting for the autumn leaves to change before I took any new photographs, I have in fact been on a trip to distant lands.  At the beginning of August I was lucky to take my family all the way across the sea to the Isles of Orkney. This dramatic group of islands lie off the northern most point of Scotland and are steeped in history, so much so the islanders say “if you cut the surface of the land, it will bleed archaeology!”  Everywhere you look you can see the remnants of its past, from standing stones and ancient burial tombs all the way through time to the ship wrecks and coastal defences of the Second World War. Its incredible to be in such a landscape with so many layers of history, some hidden just beneath the surface while others like the Ring Of Brodgar which even after 4000 years still dominate the landscape! It was a magical trip and even better because I was able to share it with my family.

Dwarfie Stone

Dwarfie Stane, Isle of Hoy.

 

ship wreck

Block Ship, Scapa Flow.

 

The Birsay Whale

The Birsay Whale, Orkney Mainland.

 

Waiting

Waiting for the return, Birsay.

 

Lonelest Grave

The lonely Grave of Betty Corrigall, Hoy.

 

Cotton Grass, Ring of Brogar

Cotton Grass, Ring Of Brodgar, Orkney Mainland.

Because this was a family holiday when it came to my camera gear I needed to travel as light as possible. I wanted to keep in simple so packed my Shen-Hoa TFC45 IIB Field Camera, a couple of lenses including my much-loved 90mm Schneider Angulon (which to be honest was the only lens I used the whole trip) and a good old reliable Schneider Solida II 6×6 folder. The 5×4 darkslides were loaded with Fomapan 100,  and for role film I took Kodak TriX 400. When we got home and it came to developing the films I decided to try something a bit different. Over the last few months I’ve been researching about the incredible potential of instant coffee and black and white film i.e Caffenol, more about that to come!!

Cheers

Graham

Return to Bleath Gill

Hello, well this is my first real post on my new blog, I have decided to start with a small project I started a few weeks ago. The heavy snow that arrived in the Uk after Christmas lead me to rediscover this incredible short film created in the 1950’s about a steam train trapped in a snowdrift high up on the Pennine fells.  To see the film please follow the link!

The film inspired to find what remained of the old railway line where the engine was stranded close to the Stainmore summit. So I decided to create a mini series of photographs based on what I found when I visited the location.

Post

 

Bridge

 

Tree

 

Hut

When I got there the weather was bleak, the sky was still heavy with snow and a deep drift lay across the derelict remains of the track bed.  I decided to travel light and used a couple of my favourite vintage 120 folding cameras a 6×9 Frauka Rolfix and a Solida III  both have Schneider lenses. The film was Kodak TriX 400 which I developed with Prescysol developer.

Cheers

Graham